Working on “Meaning”

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

While I am writing this, I am sitting outside in the beautiful city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, blogging. This is after reading articles on books, answering emails, and working on stuff for future presentations. People often will ask me, “Why don’t you go to the beach or explore or do something ‘fun’ while you are there??!?!”

My short answer is I don’t want to.

Believe me, I know that I am incredibly blessed to do what I get to do. The privilege of speaking to educators all over and travelling is quite amazing, and I am humbled by it often. I just love to “work”; it drives me. If you gave me the option of “seeing” the world, or changing it, I will take the latter, knowing that it is a ton of work and it will need dedication, if I truly want to make an impact

I have felt guilty about this often though. Am I missing out on something that I should be taking in? I have two things that drive me…my family and my work. I do my best to be home when I am home. But some articles and quotes have come across my feed that have lessened the guilt I have felt of “working too much.”

The first was in a podcast from Gary Vanerchuk. In it, he talks about how much of a blessing it is to be able to do something you love and that you should never feel guilty that you are able to do that. I have been in positions that I dreaded work, and although sometimes I am exhausted and don’t want to do certain things, there has not been one day that I spoke somewhere that I didn’t love it by the end of the day. To love what you do to the point that it does not feel like a job anymore, is awesome.

The second was this Huffington Post article, “The Pursuit Of Meaning, Not Happiness Is What Makes Life Incredibly Better”. In it, the author states:

In a research, Iris Mauss, a social psychologist at U.C. Berkeley who studies the possible negative consequences of seeking happiness, found that people who place a great value on being happy actually have more mental health problems, including, sadly enough, depression.

The more value you place on your own happiness, the more likely you are to feel lonely. Don’t spend your valuable time seeking your own happiness. You will end up feeling more shallow than you can ever imagine.

Pursuing meaning, however, makes you feel good about yourself, because you are pursuing something bigger than yourself. Something that makes you create value. When you understand how you contribute value, you will attach meaning to even the smallest thing you do and “connect the dots between your efforts and a larger purpose.” The most motivating choices are ones that align with your “why” and your purpose.

Christine L. Carter Ph.D., a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and author of “The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Work and Home” explains:

“Compelling research indicates that the pursuit of happiness — when our definition of happiness is synonymous with pleasure and easy gratification — won’t ultimately bring us deeper feelings of fulfillment; it won’t allow us to live in our sweet spot. Although we claim that the “pursuit of happiness” is our inalienable right and the primary driver of the human race, we humans do better pursuing fulfillment and meaning — creating lives that generate the feeling that we matter.”

One of the best ways to derive fulfilment as an employee is to work on projects you initiate. Something you are responsible for. If you can take more initiates and implement a lot of your own ideas, instead of reacting to actions others expect of you, your chances of finding fulfilment could double. For many people, reactionary actions take up more of their day’s work than actions they initiate.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain

The feeling that you are doing something you love, but also wanting to do something of value, is really important to me.

I do not want to lessen what others do, but I do want this reminder for myself when I feel comfortable with someone saying, “You need to take time for yourself!”, and thinking, “I am…just not the way you want it to look like.” Sometimes I work to take time for myself.

The final thing was this book I started reading by Grant Cardone entitled, “Be Obsessed, Or Be Average”. By the title, you can tell this isn’t a book on “balance”. In it, he says some things that really stuck with me. Here are three of them which I found from here:

“If the people around you are giving you advice to slow down or to take it easy — you are surrounded by the wrong people.”

“I suggest that you become obsessed about the things you want; otherwise, you are going to spend a lifetime being obsessed with making up excuses as to why you didn’t get the life you wanted.”

“You don’t get burnout — you lose purpose! You lose your meaning. When I’m tired, I look at my purpose.”

This is not meant to be the expectation I have on anyone else, only on myself. Many people have certain expectations of their life, but my parents taught me that you work for what you want; it will never be handed to you.

After writing most of this post, I read this:

If you want to think bigger, ask better (and more absurd) questions.

…These types of questions lead to creative breakthroughs and different avenues of thought. They also organically facilitate a very different strategic approach.

What absurd question will break you out of your limiting and traditional ways of thinking?

You define your meaning and you create your path. Is not only achieving “meaning”, but the constant pursuit of doing something worthwhile (whatever that means to you), in which I am striving for. The beautiful part is that this goal is one that is both attainable and unattainable at the same time, yet the continuous journey is where the true meaning lies.



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George Couros

Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant. I also like dogs.